New Year Thoughts & Packaging Challenge


 It's a new year and a new post! I thought for a while about what my first post of 2018 could be, something super positive and motivational about new beginnings etc to kick start the new year? That's what I guess a lot of people would expect but to be honest the whole "New Year New Me" thing doesn't really do it for me. I prefer to start my year with a few ideas in mind and take my time over January to really think about the previous year and what really matters to me that I would like to work on for the year ahead.

So, no motivational speeches here I'm afraid, but possibly a few ideas that might help you think about what you would like to achieve or work on this year if you are still feeling unsure. For me, goals are not just a yearly task to set and achieve within a certain time frame, I prefer to work through mine at my own pace, alter or add goals as needed and I find it much more helpful to monitor my progress simply by how I feel. 

This might all sound a bit vague but I think gauging the progress of goals by how you feel is the best way to make sure you're heading in the right direction for you and it also allows you to really know if you are working on something that's important to you.



One of the main things I plan on working on this year is my relationships with friends and family. This is something that 10 years ago I wouldn't have even given a thought to, but over time (and through getting older!) I've started to realise this is something that's really important to me. Now I'm not saying that I have any bad relationships with friends or family at all, in fact all of them are great, but what I'm looking to work on is spending that bit more time together, going the extra mile for loved ones and really strengthening some relationships that are special to me. I'm genuinely so excited for this one, it's been something I've been thinking about the past couple of years and I'm so glad that I'm now in a place where I can really focus on making relationships even more meaningful.

The second goal I have in mind is to work on confidence- an ever long struggle of mine since the age of 4, throw in some confidence shattering college tutors along the way, a surprise bout of anxiety in my uni days and I have quite the task on my hands. But that's ok, I have a few plans up my sleeve and some methods in mind of ways to really start working on it this year. One of which is to stop judging myself so much and so harshly, and to not give myself a hard time on days when I feel less confident. I'm learning that nobody feels 100% confident every single day and it's completely normal for it to fluctuate, I just want to learn to roll with that and remind myself each day.



My next goals are some simpler ones that won't take as much work but will be really rewarding in the long run:

  • Reminding myself to be grateful for what I have - this one is starting to become an automatic thought for me most days and at the simplest of times, like when I'm eating some amazing food or getting into a warm cosy bed at night. Sometimes it can be easy to forget about these things, but it makes all the difference when you start noticing them.

  • Focussing on the positives of each day - this is a tricky one! When I've had a bad day I'm the queen of dwelling, dramatising and feeling miserable. But I've realised that this just makes me feel so much worse. A trick I've started doing is to tell myself (and other people) that I had a good day, even if it was terrible and all I want to do is hibernate in my bed and only resurface for food deliveries, I say "I had a great day" (usually in a sarcastic voice but that's something to work on another day). Also, I now try and take it one step further, and think about one thing that was ok or possibly even good about my day. It could be the tiniest of things, the traffic was ok on my commute, a friend sent me a nice message, the canteen lunch menu had an actual tasty AND healthy option, you get my point? Sometimes it just takes that one little thing to remind me that ok, maybe my day wasn't so bad.

  • Try out new forms of exercise - this is a fun one! So already I go to pilates and yoga classes every week, and I love them but really want to try something new and something that will challenge me in different ways. The first thing I've decided to try is spinning, I've never been to a spin class before and will admit I'm feeling slightly intimidated by what others have told me. Fast paced, no break, bum in the air cycling with a strict and shockingly vocal instructor. I'm half worried and half really excited, my first class will be sometime in February so I will report back after then. The next thing I'm also going to start is climbing. I have a fairly local climbing centre that I've been to once before so I've decided to revisit and really put some effort into making it a regular thing. This will definitely be challenging and a serious skill to work on but something I'm really looking forward to. 


Last but by no means least, I have decided to set myself a challenge for February. More and more recently I am learning about the effects of pollution on the environment and how non recyclable plastic packaging is playing a massive part in everything from pollution to contamination, injuring and even killing animals. I have seen so much more about it in the news lately and it seems that people including the government are actually starting to take notice and put plans in place to make a change, whether or not it's too late only time will tell. 

As someone who has avoided plastic packaging for some time now (for more of a food safety aspect), I started to look at the plastic packaging I had on other things like cosmetics, shampoos, shower gels etc and was really shocked to realise they weren't recyclable. It's honestly been playing on my mind so much that I decided to set myself the challenge to go plastic free for a month to see what other options are available and if they are easy enough to get hold of.

For all of February I will be making sure anything I buy whether it's clothes, food, or cosmetics will have either recyclable, biodegradable or better still, no packaging at all. I'm really interested to see what I can find and I'm really hoping there are some hidden gems of planet friendly packaging out there. If you would like to see how I get on along the way I'll be sharing the journey on my instagram



So there you have it, my recent life ponderings and current goals. Hopefully this has given you a few ideas of things you might like to work on for yourself this year or even just to bare in mind that goals don't need to be set in stone and monitored regimentally. See how you feel, if something doesn't feel right then spend some time thinking of ways to start changing it and just take it from there. 

Let me know what ideas you have for things in your life to work on, I would love to know!

As always thank you so much for reading, hope you enjoyed the post!


P.s) So much for this not being a motivational speech!


Skincare Favourites of 2017


Happy New Year! I hope you're having the best start to 2018 and hopefully not feeling too worse for wear today after last night's celebrations. Before starting any new posts of the year I really wanted to do a quick round up of my favourite skincare products that I used/discovered in 2017. These products may not have been necessarily new but it was the first time that I had used them and loved them so much I wanted to make sure I gave them a mention on here.

Sukin Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil


I've used Rose Hip oils in the past and loved them but as I wasn't able to get hold of the brand I usually used, I decided to give this one a go. I'm not sure if this was a slightly bigger bottle than what I was used to but I found that this oil seemed to last me a lot longer and a little went a long way. Rose Hip Oil - especially organic is an absolute miracle worker for your skin. Packed with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, it can help to repair damaged tissue and regenerate skin cells, which makes it perfect for scars and stretch marks! I tend to use this around my hips and thighs for my stretch marks and then sometimes add a few drops to my normal body moisturiser for extra hydration. I definitely recommend this if you have dry/damaged skin.




If you are thinking of switching some of your skincare products for natural alternatives then please please start with your deodorant. You only have to google the words conventional antiperspirant to see the amount of research and evidence explaining the dangers and risks involved with using them, it's down right scary and completely unnecessary. I have been using natural deodorants for about 18 months now and I would never go back to a conventional antiperspirant. I have tried quite a few different ones so far and I like to regularly change them up so that my body doesn't get too used to one. My two favourites have been Neal's Yard Remedies and the one I have featured here, Schmidt's. This deodorant has been my favourite scent so far and I love the creamy texture of the stick, it's so moisturising and leaves your skin feeling soft. There have been a few natural deodorants I've tried in the past that irritated my skin especially if they contained large amounts of baking soda/arrowroot, and although this one does contain some arrowroot I haven't had any irritation at all, even when using it straight after shaving! 




Typically I'm a strict coconut oil user to cleanse my face and remove make up as it works brilliantly and leaves your skin moisturised. However, I do often find myself needing something extra to cleanse a bit deeper into my skin and for this reason I decided to try the Sukin Sensitive Cleansing Gel. Usually I'm not a fan of this kind of product as my skin tends to dry out after using them but I find that if I use this gel around 3 times a week while sticking to the coconut oil routine in-between then my skin feels even more fresher than normal and still nicely hydrated. I love how the gel is suited for sensitive skin and is also paraben and sulphate free. 




Balance Me is a really nice brand that I have used before but cannot for the life of me remember what products it was I tried before this one! But anyway, the radiance mask is a really lovely product that I like to use 2-3 times a week to keep my skin feeling soft and smooth. Considering it's a face mask it doesn't give you that tight dry mud mask feeling like conventional face masks, and it's actually a lot more like a creamy moisturiser. The mask smells heavenly and contains tiny shell particles that very gently exfoliate your skin without drying or irritating, which is really important for my skin. I only leave the mask on for about a minute and then use a warm damp muslin cloth to remove it. It leaves you feeling like you've had a mini midweek spa treatment.




I saved the best for last... I love, love, love this little face oil! Hence why, as you can now see the bottle is empty and I need to replace it asap. I was sent a sample of this amazing product by Love Lula, (thanks guys!) and it was the first time I had heard of Ooh! I later found out that it actually stands for Oils Of Heaven, which is perfectly named as this oil is so heavenly! I wasn't too sure about using an oil as a moisturiser thinking that it would be heavy and most likely impossible to use underneath make up, but oh how wrong I was! It's extremely lightweight and honestly the most moisturising product I have used on my skin. Also, I tried it underneath my make up and it worked perfectly, not breaking up my foundation at all. I used this every night for a few weeks and each morning my skin looked incredible, the surface was completely soft and smooth and my complexion had even improved. If you are looking for a new face moisturiser and want to try something a little different I would definitely recommend this product.


So there we have it, a round up of my favourite skincare products of 2017. I hope this has been insightful and inspiring for a more natural way to care for your skin, and given you some ideas of great products to try. Thanks so much for reading and I will hopefully see you back here again soon!

Festive Mulled Wine Recipe



For me, there really isn't a more festive drink than mulled wine. It always reminds me of Christmas markets and getting cosy in front of an open fire. I love the flavours, the smell and it even looks delicious and festive! This year I decided to make my own version and although I'm not a big drinker I have made the alcoholic version rather than non alcoholic. There are some great recipes online for non alcoholic mulled wine but it is just a really simple swap - use a berry fruit juice in place of the wine, and voila! This recipe is also quite versatile so feel free to play around with the quantities to suit your own preferred taste. 



Ingredients (Serves 2)

250ml Red Wine
2 Large Slices of Orange
2 Cinnamon Sticks
4 Star Anise
5 Cloves
2 tsp Honey/Maple Syrup
Sprinkle of Vanilla Powder

Add all ingredients to a saucepan and heat for a few minutes making sure it doesn't bubble or boil. Pour through a strainer and serve. Feel free to add the orange slices, cinnamon sticks or star anise for the finishing touch. Enjoy!




Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Soup


Halloween has been and gone, but afterwards I was wondering what to do with the pumpkins I had left over. It seemed only right to make good use of them and so I decided to make a pumpkin soup. Having never made this before I was worried it might turn out to be a disaster but actually it is probably the best soup I have made so far and a lot easier than I thought it would be. Below is the list of ingredients I used followed by the method.

Ingredients

1 small pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1tsp Turmeric Powder
1tsp Paprika Powder
1-2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Honey
Pinch of Chilli Flakes
Pinch of Coriander
Drizzle of Oil
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 180c (fan)

Cut the pumpkin into quarters and scoop out the middle discarding the stringy flesh but keeping the seeds to one side.

Using a potato peeler remove the skin from the sections of pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin into cubes.

Place the cubes of pumpkin on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and roast for 30-40 mins.

Once cooked leave the pumpkin to cool for a few minutes before adding it to a food processor along with 1\2 cup of coconut milk and blend together.

Place the pumpkin seeds on a tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 mins.

Pour the pumpkin and coconut milk blend into a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients, heat on a low light stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and coriander over the soup to serve.


Hope you like the recipe and enjoy the soup as much as I did. I still have 2 pumpkins left so will be cooking up another recipe soon! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the post!

Autumn Appreciation and Winter Preparation




Honestly, up until this year the only season I ever really enjoyed was summer. Summer was my time of year, a time for warm light summer nights, hazy mornings, sunbathing and dining al fresco. Anything other than summertime just wouldn't do. But more recently for reasons unknown I have developed a new found awareness and appreciation of all seasons and the changes within each one. I think the appeal has been the feeling of a new start, a chance for new beginnings and to turn over a new leaf (preferably a chestnut coloured crunchy one.)




The start of Autumn brought me so much excitement for the months ahead, I really started to take more notice of all the colours changing and the mornings feeling crisper and with Halloween around the corner what was there to not be excited about?! Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the cold and how easily I feel the cold, it honestly makes me feel so miserable! But so far the change in weather hasn't affected me too much, yes I have been layering up more and noticing how icy cold my car feels getting into it each morning, but for the first time, it hasn't made me feel down at all!




For someone who hates the cold weather I have really been getting on board with it this year and making the most of the colder months. I have been spending more time wrapping myself up and going on sunny walks, taking Mika on even earlier morning walks while it's still dark and peaceful, and making my home extra cosy at night with candles, a lit fire and most importantly turning that central heating up!

Now that we are getting nearer to winter I feel like it's time to start preparing for that next drop in temperature. So far I have stocked up by purchasing practically the entire of Primark's 300 denier fleece lined tights, my favourite M&S thermals and a daylight lamp for the extra dark mornings when it feels like you are waking up at midnight. The key is in the prep, once that is done I can sit back and relax while clutching an endless amount of hot water bottles - but hopefully still with a smile on my face.

Until then, we still have exactly 39 days of autumn left to enjoy before winter officially begins. So I will just be over here, going on some more crisp sunny walks, figuring out what to make out of my left over pumpkins (so far one has been made into a soup which I will share the recipe for soon), and snuggling up in front of the fire surrounded by candles while potentially watching some Christmas films because it is NEVER too early.

I hope your autumn is treating you well and hopefully you are making the most of it too!




Healthy Vegan Halloween Cookies



It's beginning to look a lot like Halloween, so I decided to spend a bit of time in the kitchen this weekend making some Halloween treats! I'm so in love with these cookies, they are so light and sweet and I don't feel guilty about eating them as I know they are made with amazing ingredients. I have had lots of questions on my Instagram about how I made these cookies so I thought I would write a really quick post sharing the ingredients and method. They are honestly so quick and easy to make. The recipe is based on the Chocolate Bats and Cats recipe by Deliciously Ella however, I changed it up slightly to work for the type of cookie I wanted.

Ingredients:

Cookies:
2 tbsp Coconut Oil
2 tbsp Cashew Butter
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
120g Buckwheat Flour

Icing: 
 2 - 3 tbsp Coconut Cream
1 tsp Maple Syrup

Chocolate to decorate: 
1 tsp Almond Butter 
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp Cacao Powder


Preheat the oven to 180c (fan)

Melt the coconut oil, cashew butter and maple syrup together on a low heat. Next add in the buckwheat flour and mix until the mixture forms a dough. 

Roll out the dough and start cutting out your halloween shapes using your choice of cookie cutters or free hand using a knife.

Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes. Check the cookies often to avoid burning as the mixture cooks quite quickly.

Once cooked leave the cookies out on a wire rack to cool completely. While the cookies cool you can start making the icing.

Mix 2-3 tbsp of coconut cream in a bowl with 1 tsp of maple syrup. Using a spoon or knife carefully spread the cream over each cookie then leave in the freezer for around 10-15 minutes to set.

Next, to make the chocolate, melt the almond butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, and cacao powder in a pan on a low heat and then leave to cool for a few minutes to thicken slightly.

Take the cookies out of the freezer and start decorating your halloween shapes with chocolate. For this I used a very thin pointed knife to draw the ghouls faces.

After this you can either keep them stored in the fridge or eat them straight away.

And voila there you have your healthy vegan Halloween cookies!

I hope this is helpful to those wanting to make their own cookies and as always thank you for reading this post.

Happy Halloween Baking!


An Evening Banquet with Deliciously Ella

Many years ago when I first started taking an interest in food and nutrition as a way to treat my health conditions I found myself desperately trying to find inspiring recipes that weren't overly complicated, used ingredients that I was familiar with and looked tasty. Let me just say that this was no easy task. Many of the recipe books I found used a ton of confusing ingredients, no nice imagery to accompany, and quite frankly sounded awful. When I first stumbled across the Deliciously Ella blog I finally found what I'd been looking for. Simple ingredients? Check. Beautiful food photography? Check. Plant Based? Check, check and check! Not only that, the recipes were made by someone who was relatable and clearly very passionate about food. Finally there was somebody who made me feel normal to be cooking kale when everyone else was tucking into their Big Macs. Since then I have been following Ella on her journey from her blog, first book and now to her 4th book, opening delis and launching products.

 Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of dining with the lovely Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella) and 50 others as part of the Manchester Food Festival. The evening kicked off with a talk from the award winning food blogger where she spoke all about how her business started, how it rapidly grew and future plans, along with her own personal thoughts and insights into health, diet and social media. Shortly after we had a Q&A session where Ella answered all our questions very honestly and openly with the warmest sense of humour.

Later in the evening we heard from the head chef who talked us through all the amazing ingredients he had used in the carefully selected meals, all of which stayed true to Ella's lifestyle of plant based, gluten and dairy free goodness.




The banquet was served on beautifully dressed long wooden tables and started off with the most amazing Sweetcorn Chowder. This was the first time I had tried any kind of chowder and it certainly won't be the last. I have honestly been googling chowder recipes everyday since!



The main course was served family style on large serving plates to share, I loved this idea as it really got everyone interacting and gave the whole evening a warm and friendly feeling. It was so nice getting to know everyone and it has defintely made me want to try more banquet style meals in the future. 

The main course included Sweet Potato Wedges with a Tahini and Coriander dressing, Aubergine with Tomato and Basil, a Black Rice Salad with Peppers, Pistachios and Sultanas, and an Artichoke and Edamame Dip. My favourite was the black rice salad, with so many amazing flavours going on I could have ate the entire plate myself! It sparked a memory of that Friends episode... you know the one I mean "Joey doesn't share food!" (If you don't know what I mean, please google it for some comedy gold)




Dessert was served as a Mango and Coconut Sponge Cake which was decorated with the prettiest edible flowers (I had to ask before I ate one just to be sure!) And as a final treat we were then served the lightest and most delicious chocolate Truffles to finish the evening.



All in all it was a throughly enjoyable night with great company and delicious food. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday night! Thank you to Ella and her team for hosting the banquet and I hope to make it to the next one. If you are thinking of going to one of Ella's events I couldn't recommend it more, there are usually lots of Supper Clubs and Banquets that you can get tickets to via her blog.

Once again thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post!